One of the things that is the most encouraging things to me is talking with other Christian entrepreneurs because sometimes we feel so alone within the walls of our church. Not only are we not getting fed like we should, but we feel like second class heavenly citizens, constantly extending one’s hand for a handshake and those in ministries turning their hands looking for a handout.
This is an “interview” (I asked a number of questions, he choose which ones to answer to tell his story) I did with John Wood and his story. This “interview” series is a way of encouraging other Christians that you are not alone and there are entrepreneurs that have gone before you and are succeeding, including being older and a bit wiser. Enjoy and be blessed.
John Wood’s story is more than your average tale of business success. It’s a story of love and loss, of success and failure, of tested faith and redemption.
Wood, a former corporate ladder climber-turned-educator, finally embraced his entrepreneurial side and opened his own commercial cleaning business, Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services of Dallas-Carrollton, about a year ago. He has been making connections through former colleagues and church friends, and he expects those connections to pay dividends in the near future.
“I just connected with a Christian radio station representative here, and those types of connections absolutely become deeper, quicker, because of who we both are,” he says. “I will do some advertising with him because of his audience. I am absolutely sure that this relationship will benefit both of us.”
He also has recently been contacted by several former work connections rather unexpectedly – “that’s a God thing,” he says. “Most of my friends are spiritual people, as are their friends, and these are all important connections.”
Wood adds, “From a spiritual standpoint, it’s relationships first and money and business second. I will make the connections, and let God do His work.
Wood’s journey took him from the business world to classrooms to hospitals and finally to his own office. Fortunately, he was not traveling alone.
Q: How did you get here?
JW: I started out in the business world, working my way up the corporate ladder as a buyer at Dillard’s and Target. I did not love it because I missed working with other people, so I went to work in the stores and became the person who turned around failing stores. I took over one in Baton Rouge, and we became profitable but it almost killed me. Literally.
Q: What do you mean?
JW: In February 1994, I was on a business trip, and the plane I was on lost power and went down in a sugarcane field in New Rhodes, La. Everybody walked off the plane – but that’s when I decided I was going to go into education. I had had enough of that!
Q: So you quit and went into education?
JW: Yes, I started out working with emotionally disturbed kids. It was really difficult but very fulfilling. I cut my salary into a third! But I still had that corporate mentality, so I got a master’s degree and became a principal and then a superintendent. Within me, there was always that desire to be on my own, but the corporate world had been good to me, so I kept doing it.
Q: But you had some pretty rough times during those years.
JW: While I was working as a principal, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with pediatric bone cancer. I was working all day, then spending the night at the hospital. We went through five years of treatment. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer – and my dad was dying of the same type of cancer.
We lost my daughter in 2005. She was just 14½.
Q: I am so sorry. How did you cope with that?
JW: Not well. By that time, I was serving as headmaster at a private Christian school. Everyone around me told me you should never make a huge decision at such a low point in your life, but I quit. I was an emotional wreck. I was questioning God. Things were not good. A little while later, I became director of a charter school. But I had reached the point where I didn’t care. I began questioning authority, which of course did not set well with the board.
So I started a real estate business late in 2007.
Q: Oh, no. That was difficult timing!
JW: Yes, it was. The market took a nosedive and I just couldn’t recover. I failed at that business.
I was thrilled when I was offered another corporate job. Unfortunately, I got fired from that one. It was only two to three years out from my daughter’s death.
I really think it would be good for everyone to be fired at some point in their career. It teaches you a lot. But you have to be open-minded enough to hear the lesson.
Have you read the book, “The Road Less Traveled,” by M. Scott Peck? The first line says, “Life is difficult.” That is a great truth, because once we see the truth, we transcend it. If I could not accept my daughter’s death, how could I accept anything else?
Q: How did you begin to move on?
JW: I considered going back to education, but I was disillusioned with the fact that we weren’t helping kids as much as we were trying to beat the numbers.
I learned over those years that when you get that nudge, you can’t be afraid to make the change. I was making six figures, had a phone and car allowance. But I was unhappy. It became unmanageable for me. I couldn’t do anything that violated my values system.
At that point, I knew I had to leave, and I had always wanted to run my own business. God had blessed me through my corporate job and education. But at 64, I retired from education. I researched about 100 franchises, and as soon as I found Office Pride, I knew it was the way to go. It was just the right fit. God has allowed this to fulfill a need in me at the same time that I am helping others.
In “Outwitting the Devil,” Napoleon Hill writes that you will find happiness only by helping others to find it, and if you keep seeking happiness for yourself, you will never find it. That is so true.
Q: How is your business doing?
JW: It’s difficult, but I never expected it to be anything else. One thing that I want to show is that you can still do this at my age. You can still have the drive and desire to keep going and stay challenged and succeed. I’m having a good time.
Q: How did you survive all this?
JW: We would not have made it after our daughter’s death without our church family. The emotional support was just so critical during that time. I honestly don’t know how people who do not have that level of love and support live through the dark days.
More and more, I find the community of believers outside the confines of the church building. I am so grateful for that.
Thank you for your comments, John. There you have it. His experience mirrors mine in that life is difficult, but it’s the lessons learned from his interview and other future interviews that I hope you gain some insights that God is with you the whole way through building your entrepreneurial business. You, or rather we, are not alone. God, and other entrepreneurs, are pulling and praying for you.